CKG Review: Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

What the Judges Say:

“The language used in this novel exquisitely conveys the atmosphere of the 1940s American rural setting…Every character is believable, well developed and fully rounded, combined with well observed small domestic details. This is a truthful exploration of small-time attitudes and injustice without being overly sentimental, and exploring questions of morality within the confines of the story.”


What We Say:

“The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie.”

From the moment I read that gripping first line, I was absolutely hooked on Wolf Hollow. There aren’t many books that I read in one day but I swallowed this one whole. 

Compelling is the first word that comes to mind when I think of this book. It’s not a cheerful story and it takes you to some pretty dark places but, from that first line onwards, you’re completely drawn in and have no choice but to go there.

The book tells the story of twelve year-old Annabelle, whose unremarkable life in sleepy, rural Wolf Hollow is rudely interrupted by the arrival of a new girl at school, Betty Glengarry. Betty’s reputation precedes her (she has been sent to live with her grandparents in the country because she is “incorrigible”) and she very soon reveals herself to be a cruel and manipulative bully.

Before long Betty is bullying Annabelle and making threats against her brothers. But Annabelle has an ally in Toby, a First World War veteran who lives on the edges of Wolf Hollow’s small community:

He didn’t ask for food or money. He didn’t ask for anything at all. But instead of drifting through on his way to somewhere else like the others, he circled endlessly, and I confess that I had been nervous about him in the beginning.

When Toby challenges Betty, she soon sets out to get revenge in startling and very disturbing fashion. And Annabelle is forced to tackle questions such as, when is doing wrong actually right? And what if lying is sometimes actually in the best interests of the truth? 

This book has been compared to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and it’s easy to understand why such comparisons have been made – a rural American setting; a small community; a lying antagonist; the “mockingbird” character, wrongfully accused of something terrible and left facing the wrath of the townsfolk; and a girl approaching adolescence being confronted by some very grown-up dilemmas. 

Wolf Hollow is a really well-crafted novel, a challenging read that explores some pretty big concepts and really makes you think about human capability, motivation and morality.

Emma

Wolf Hollow is published by Corgi Books

Find out more: listen to Lauren Wolk talk about Wolf Hollow here:

http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/watch.php?id=10

Review: Where Monsters Lie – Polly Ho-Yen

Having tweeted about how much I enjoyed Polly Ho-Yen’s debut novel, The Boy in the Tower, I was very excited when she contacted me a few months later and offered to send me something else to read.

Where Monsters Lie centres around mystery and seemingly inexplicable events. In the tiny village of Mivtown, everybody knows everybody else. And everybody’s heard the legend of the monsters of the loch:

The adults used it to scare us away from the water, but we were hazy about what the monsters actually were or even what would raise them. All we knew was that the monsters were supposed to lead you into the water.

The story opens on the night of “the offering” – an annual ritual designed to keep the monsters at bay. When Effie and her family return from the offering, they find that Effie’s rabbit, Buster, has vanished. Buster is not the only thing to go missing in this book -before long, Effie’s mum also disappears, seemingly without trace.

At this point I feel it’s only fair to offer a friendly word of warning: THERE ARE SLUGS IN THIS BOOK! Having lived in a house a few years ago where slugs were a persistent nuisance (trust me, you’ve never known true ick until you’ve stood barefoot on a slug at 3am whilst carrying your crying baby downstairs for a night feed), it’s safe to say I’m not their biggest fan (then again, who is?). Shortly after Effie’s mum disappears, Effie starts to find slugs around the house on a regular basis. It seems innocuous enough at first but soon the sheer numbers and strange behaviour patterns of the slugs mean they are impossible to ignore:

Slugs atop slugs atop slugs.

Effie and her best friend Finn decide to try to solve the mystery. What has happened to Effie’s mum? What’s going on with the slugs? Why are “the oldies” acting so shiftily? And is any of it linked to the legend of the loch?

This is one seriously atmospheric book. Polly’s descriptions of Mivtown, the landscape and the loch, make the setting feel like an integral character, as crucial to the story as anything else. She has a way of writing that gets right under your skin (and makes your skin crawl, in the case of the slugs!). Effie is sad, angry, bewildered, determined, stubborn and hopeful; and Finn is calm, honest and good; whilst the evasive manner of almost all the adults evokes just the right amount of suspense and uneasiness.

Where Monsters Lie is an intriguing, captivating read and I can’t wait to see what Polly Ho-Yen comes up with next!

Emma